Do we have the choice to stay?
“Who aren’t far away from home after growing up, swimming in the sea of strangers”—lyrics from “Adult” by Crowd Lu, one of my favorite Taiwanese singers. The song depicts most young adults’ experience in Taiwan and many other countries. We are expected to dream big and leave our hometown for better future, bringing back fame and fortune. Living in the crowd of cities, people seldom ask themselves if they love their lives and the things they are pursuing, probably because the answers hurt. I was reminded of this song frequently during my conversation with the locals.
Irish, the daughter of my host family, is currently preparing for the teacher qualification exam. When asked about her plan after becoming a teacher, she said she hopes to work at a school near Jagna, so that she can go back home every day. It raised my curiosity about how important family is to her. She told us that it’s always the best if she can live with her family in Tubod Mar, even after she gets married. “If moving to the cities means better opportunities for you and your kids, would you move away?” we asked. “Hmm…then I would move together with all my family, my parents.” She smiled after answering. It’s a strong comparison with most of the young adults I met before. In Taiwan, people tend to move away from their parents’ house after high school or college, for their own privacy, independence and others’ perspective as well. If they have the chance to find a decent job in big cities, such as Taipei, they always strive to earn a living there, which partly results from the social value system. It demonstrates one’s maturity and competency to lead one’s own successful life and send money back home routinely. Also, these young adults all share a dream of seeing their family proud of their accomplishments. Finally, everyone has to leave his/her home, which is usually irrelevant to personal preference. Before, I always claimed that I will start my adventure around the globe after graduation rather than enjoy the warmth and security of home, since it makes me dull and stagnant. I began doubting if it is just my excuse. In order to meet the expectation of society, I am driven away from home but pretend that it’s my own choice. How come Irish chooses to stay without hesitation? Because of the cultural differences? Or simply because she has stronger determination to follow her heart, her love?
The manager of YCU Dry Goods shared the story of her daughters with me. Her forth daughter became pregnant without marriage when still in college. At first, the boy’s parents provided financial support to her daughter and requested the custody of the child. However, she and her daughter insisted that the child should stay with them, and thus they no longer received money from the boy’s family. Having no choices, her daughter went to Dubai and worked as a domestic helper. It occurred to me that I once interviewed a Filipino domestic helper in Hong Kong, and her helplessness was so impressive that I became extremely afraid of poverty. The manager told me that her daughter signed a two-year contract with the employer. It’s impossible for her to come back without the employer’s permit during the contract period. I couldn’t imagine a mom leaving her little kid for so long due to the lack of money. Ironically, the manager’s fifth daughter just graduated from one of the top colleges in Bohol and is planning to apply for working visa to Thailand. I couldn’t help but wonder if her forth daughter would dissuade her fifth daughter from leaving the family. Sometimes, people just failed to understand the significance of family before leaving it. Poor mom is forced to leave her family in order to raise her children, while talented young adult is encouraged to leave the family to pursue brighter future. Do people have the choice to stay?
I’m not that kind of little girl who feels homesick easily. I don’t really miss my home even if living in the dorm or hostel for half a year, but I do miss my home now. My host family is cute and sweet, which might turn out to be the reason for my homesickness. Irish’s father quit his previous job in order to live with the family every day, while Irish also wishes to work nearby in the future. We all know that human life is too short to be wasted on things that we don’t love. Then, do I really love studying or working abroad? Are those experiences and capabilities important to me? Or I just want to prove myself and satisfy the vanity of mine and my parents’? As a young adult, I hope I can always follow my heart instead of making some decisions to meet the expectations of others. It doesn’t matter to fly further by myself or stay at home as long as it’s my own choice. There are so many reasons for us to leave, but don’t forget that we can always choose to stay for one reason - family.